US president Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday that he is willing to support a policy that will loosen some of the current travel restrictions that are in place at the Canadian-American border. Trump stated that he preferred to do this “now rather than later”. While Americans have historically never needed a visa to travel to Canada, travelling to Canada is no longer allowed due to the current coronavirus crisis, not even for holders of an American passport.
Two countries, two outbreaks
Like the rest of the world, the coronavirus has also broken out in the USA as well as Canada. The two neighbouring countries struggle with the extent of the outbreak, and in both countries the healthcare systems are threatening to buckle under the ever-increasing number of coronavirus patients. However, aside from these similarities, the situation in Canada differs radically from the American one. With roughly 1000 casualties, Canada has a fairly good hold on the outbreak. Even president Trump extended his compliments to Canada, which was doing “good work” with how they handled the coronavirus. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the United States. In the USA tens of thousands of people have died as a result of the virus, and this number will likely only increase in the coming months.
Travel ban Canada-USA
The North American neighbours made agreements in March to forbid all non-essential traffic between the two countries. This travel ban raised many an eyebrow in other countries around the world, as the ban specifically allows trade to continue as normal. Both Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau agreed that the economic interests between both countries were too important to put to a sudden stop. People with essential jobs, such as nurses, are also allowed to cross the border.
This ban is still quite extreme. Canada and the USA exchange millions of tourists and business travellers each year. The primary reason for this is that both countries abolished the visa requirements for each other. This means that travellers with a Canadian passport do not need a US visa to travel to the United States. Likewise, American travellers do not need a Canadian visa or eTA for holidays in Canada. This travel ban therefore affects both countries in a sensitive area.
Economic interests a priority for Trump
US president Trump does not keep it a secret that the economic interests of the US are priority number one for him. He has been alluding for weeks to the idea that the restrictions in his own country can be relaxed a little so that companies can get back to work. What looks like irresponsible greed of the former real estate tycoon might also have practical reasons. The unemployment numbers in the USA are rising with a frightening speed. Millions of Americans have had to apply for unemployment benefits, which has quickly led to a great deal of pressure on the relevant authorities.
Furthermore, the USA is a country where your health insurance is directly tied to your work. If you do not have a job, you likewise do not have any insurance. No insurance means no healthcare, which is one of the reasons the casualty rate in the United States is so high. Voices are already rising to radically change this system. As such, the impact of the coronavirus might have a bitter aftertaste for the USA.
Canada less excited
While president Trump has said that the relationship with Canada is “very positive” and that both countries are equally excited about loosening the travel restrictions, this is most likely less so the case for Canada. The travel ban will expire next week, and Trump is toying with the idea of not extending it. However, considering the dramatic difference in the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreaks in both countries, it cannot be taken for granted that Canada will likewise consider this a good idea. The US has over 500.000 cases of coronavirus, with more than 20.000 casualties. Canada, on the other hand, has 18.000 cases of coronavirus. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced earlier that domestic measures against the Coronavirus in Canada will be extended by several weeks. So the question is whether he's willing to take the risk of reopening the borders with America.
Take note: the information in this article can be outdated. Before applying for an eTA or visa for Canada, read all about the current state of affairs regarding the coronavirus in Canada.